Christine Snow: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life
An Interview With Pirie Jones Grossman
The ability to de-escalate a situation will always be extremely valuable no matter where you work. When I was a flight attendant, this skill was mostly used with upset passengers or coworkers, but this skill will always be helpful in any situation where someone is stressed out.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50's.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Snow.
Christine Snow is a former flight attendant with seven years of experience working at a major US airline. During the pandemic, she quit her career flying to pursue coding, and attended the Zip Code Wilmington software development bootcamp. She now works as a software developer for a respected US financial company on the east coast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up being told I had to go to college, but once I got there, I had no idea what to major in. I changed my major 10 times in my first 3 semesters — nothing felt quite right. I ended up graduating in 4 years with a degree in English simply because that was the degree I could get the fastest with the credits I had. Fortunately, I was hired as a flight attendant upon my college graduation and was able to leave behind the stress of “what to be when I grew up” for a few years.
After several years of flying, though, and in spite of all the friends I made and adventures I had, I knew I still hadn’t found a career that was the right fit. Too many other careers seemed out of my reach, or less desirable than the one I already had. I didn’t know what to pursue professionally — all I knew was I didn’t want to travel forever.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” ― George Bernard Shaw
I was absolutely obsessed with the concept behind this quote. I applied it to every area of my life, telling myself repeatedly, “there’s no shame in making a mistake! I will simply do my damndest to never make it again.” Thinking this way gave me permission to try new things and drop my fear about what others thought of me. After changing my major so many times in college and never finding one that felt right, I knew I had to keep exploring if I was going to find my path forward. The flexibility and free time I had in the airline industry gave me the chance to look into every career path that remotely interested me: I applied for writing positions, looked into marketing companies, took flying lessons, and explored dental schools, to name only a few, all while continuing to fly for work.
When I started refusing to let myself feel shame about making mistakes (or appearing flighty), I was able to embrace my life’s possibilities and get a taste for many different industries to see what might be a good fit for me. Dropping this fear gave me permission to try as many new things in life as I wanted, and to enjoy the learning process.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Curiosity: I am constantly learning. Every trip as a flight attendant, I brought a kindle full of fresh e-books to read. I constantly took courses online about anything that sparked my interest. This curiosity served me well when I decided to make my big career change — I was going to funnel every ounce of curiosity I possessed into learning the skills necessary to succeed as a software developer.
Chameleon personality: This adaptability was important in the travel industry, and equally important as I transitioned over into the world of tech. Being able to adapt comfortably to working with people in different environments around the world and to communicate well on teams set me up for success in challenging situations.
Not being intimidated by others’ talents: There are many people who say things like “Oh, I could never be a pilot — I could never learn to fly a commercial plane like that!” or, “Coding is way too technical — it will always be gibberish to me!” These things are simply untrue, and having this outlook on new things is harmful. Literally everyone is terrible at a skill when they are brand new to it. Instead of being overly intimidated by others’ skills, I chose to be inspired by how they learned, and soon found myself learning their skills as well.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
From the beginning, I was excited about my first career as a flight attendant and fully enjoyed the experiences it brought, but long term I craved a career with a mental challenge and a stable schedule. I often worked weekends and holidays, and after the newness of being a flight attendant wore off, I realized I wasn’t mentally stimulated by what I did at all.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I completely changed my life! After spending 7 years in the airline industry, I left and immersed myself in the world of tech. I knew a career in tech had the potential to bring me the work/life stability I had craved before. I also knew that software development would never give me the chance to be bored, and I’d have perpetual opportunities to apply new learning to what I was doing.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
When the pandemic hit the US in 2020, the airline industry felt the first effects of it in March. I could see the travel industry changing before my eyes, and I knew these changes were the push I needed to get out of a career I was no longer passionate about or interested in.
Some of my favorite things about being a flight attendant were the thrill of meeting new people, staying in nice hotels, and trying different restaurants in every city I visited. I never knew who I would meet in a given day at work. Stepping foot onto each plane opened its own mini world of possibilities. What will today be like? I never knew — and I reveled in that.
The pandemic threw a shadow on all of this for me. Meeting new people wasn’t fun anymore — I was far more concerned about whether or not I had enough hand sanitizer, or whether people were giving me those recommended 6’ of healthy distance. Everything felt up close and personal, and not in a good way. The thrill of staying in a nice new hotel room evaporated during those days as well. I was afraid to leave my room on layovers, but there was also no guarantee my hotel room was sterile. Restaurants weren’t even open. The spring of 2020 cast the travel industry I knew into a different universe.
People in the airline industry, however, expect drastic changes every several years or so. The travel industry has evolved many times over the past 70 years, and will continue to do so. The difference for me was I suddenly knew I didn’t feel like evolving with it anymore.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Quarantine during the spring and summer of 2020 gave me the time I needed to reflect on what I most disliked about my current situation and what kind of career would bring me the kind of life I most craved. I knew I wanted a mental challenge and that I didn’t want to travel for work anymore. I was drawn to writing code, so I spent the summer and fall taking online coding courses to see if I really enjoyed it. The more I learned, I found I deeply appreciated the structure, creativity, and problem solving that writing code required. After hearing about Zip Code Wilmington — a software development bootcamp that trains individuals in Java and data science in a team-based environment — I knew I had to apply. I was accepted, and spent 12-weeks honing my skills in tech and networking with others in the fintech industry, and a week after graduation was offered a position as a software developer for a respected financial company in the Philadelphia area.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Transitioning into being a software developer has been a challenging yet hugely rewarding adjustment. Some things remain the same across both tech and travel industries — the need for strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate well in teams has been invaluable in both careers. But getting to transition to teamwork that is completely technical in a consistent, daily environment has grown my coding skills immeasurably. I have never felt more challenged and inspired at work while feeling so content and at home.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The staff at Zip Code Wilmington really made a difference in my life. They taught me not only coding-specific skills, but also networking tips, and challenged me at every turn to learn more, try harder, and not to give up. It’s thanks to their help that I was able to achieve this career change in less than a year from when I first felt the effects of the pandemic as a flight attendant.
Chris Nobles was an instructor with Zip Code who really stood out. He had come through the program himself only a few years prior, and had be hired and worked for a respected financial company in the Wilmington area before becoming an instructor himself. His blunt critiques of our work and well worded explanations for particularly challenging concepts were exactly the kind of feedback I needed to succeed.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I honestly have not yet missed traveling. It’s been more than 15 months since I have set foot in an airport, and I’m reassured by my complete lack of regret at leaving that career behind. Who could have predicted that I would be more inspired in my own life without traveling to different cities every week for work?! ‘Interesting’ things used to happen to me every day when I was a flight attendant. I could watch the sun set in Seattle over the Puget Sound as my flight took off, and watch it rise over Manhattan in the morning when I’d land after a red eye. I’d frequently meet celebrities, or scientists, or writers, or artists while they were traveling as well.
Being home has enabled me to be grounded in a way I never was before. I am now present enough that I’ve been able to read more, learn more, cultivate an exotic orchid collection that’s flourishing, better train my pets, spend more time with my partner, and of course, exponentially grow my new skill in software development and further my career. Ironically, my life is far more exciting to me now, in this grounded, flourishing state, than it was before when I was jet setting all over the place.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
When I was first exploring the tech industry, I felt like a huge outsider, having had no previous experience with writing or debugging code. It was difficult to feel confident in my ability to make this transition when I was struggling to even find someone willing to share practical advice about learning code.
When Corey Poff, a developer who has been in the industry for nearly a decade, sat down with me on Zoom to offer career advice and answer questions, it made a huge difference for me mentally. I reached out to him in the summer of 2020, seeking some grounded perspective on whether the goals I was setting for myself (in learning coding from scratch and pursuing a career in it) were achievable or not. Thanks to his insight and encouragement, I began to see this career change as a genuine possibility, and his advice pointed me in a solid direction to continue learning.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I began by openly discussing my possible career change with my partner, and I did my research and spoke to any experts I could find. If I was accepted into Zip Code’s competitive bootcamp, I knew I would be spending 80–100 hours per week for 12-weeks doing coursework, but that I’d have a solid chance at getting a good job after graduating. When I was accepted, I made sure my friends and relatives all understood the schedule I would be under for the next 3 months. Laying this groundwork with communication was key for me in making it through the program and smoothly transitioning into my new career.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Honestly, I felt trapped in my previous career for several years before I finally broke out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what direction to pursue career-wise, and didn’t want to leave my good position until I felt confident about my next step. I did the best I could in the situation, which was to continue exploring every other career path that intrigued me. Two things pushed me to finally make the change:
- Feeling the effects of the pandemic on the travel industry, and knowing that they would change the industry in some major ways, possibly forever.
- Discovering a budding interesting in coding and knowing that it could lead to the kind of career path I’ve always wanted.
The combination of these two things made me feel the time was right for a change, and that I would lose nothing by throwing all my energy into making this change happen.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why?
Five things I wish I knew about transferrable skills before:
- The ability to de-escalate a situation will always be extremely valuable no matter where you work. When I was a flight attendant, this skill was mostly used with upset passengers or coworkers, but this skill will always be helpful in any situation where someone is stressed out.
- Listening is the most valuable skill you can have. Being able to pick up on and remember details and apply them to your work or use this when interacting with others is invaluable in staying on track and keeping perspective. Not only will this help you help you in your own work, it will gain you respect from those around you.
- Networking can open doors for you. Not many people love the idea of networking, but it is vital. Your career is dependent not only on how hard you work, but really on how much you are willing to put yourself out there and make connections.
- You have the power to change your life. Get strategic about what kind of life you want, and then get practical about how you can make it happen.
- Do something fun or enjoyable every single day. This is the most important thing. Life is short. In the long run, it doesn’t matter how far take your career if you’re not enjoying yourself. Make sure you take time to enjoy your life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would encourage people to always reconsider what they think they know. The most purifying and empowering moments in my life have come when I was willing to consider how wrong I was about something. (Similarly, to my favorite quote above) I firmly believe there is no shame in being wrong. But there is shame in not being able to admit it when you are.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
Hannah Shaw — the work she has done in education and animal advocacy has changed the lives of so many. She has always been an incredible voice to follow online and learn from. I’d love to meet her simply because I think she’s amazing, and a wonderful example of a truly strong woman and human being.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!